ceF in vietnam – part 3
more market gazing and fine dining in saigon

October 17th, 2010 · 18 Comments

oh vietnam… don’t make me love you so. the time will pass so quickly and then we will be apart. 

it’s the people. it’s the vibe. saigon has this "thing’ about it. this way of being that has taken me by surprise. amidst the never ending drone of 4 million scooters with a chaotic traffic pattern that somehow moves with a slo-mo ease that feels comfortable, even strangely choreographed – perhaps even enhanced by the the endless symphonic clamor of construction going on everywhere, i feel very peaceful here…

then there are the throngs of people eating, always eating… i’ve never seen so much eating happening – on the streets – everywhere people are cooking. women setting up a little spot with a propane stove and a pan for an egg and some bbq pork with a few customers gathered around sitting on these tiny stools. the local street food scene is astonishing. if only because of the bizarreness of it here in saigon. these are not the carts that you see in thailand, these are people kneeling down and cooking simple food with squirt bottles of chili sauce and fish sauce, everywhere…

westerners are warned off this local food. there is nothing close to any ‘sanitation’ and from what i hear one might tend to come down with nasty gastro issues if one were to indulge… i am fearless in this regards but have so far mostly eaten at the markets where supposedly the food won’t make you ill. for breakfast this morning i chose a stall at random in the middle of the market and had 2 fresh spring rolls and a bowl of noodles with shrimp paste cooked around a stalk of sugar cane and bbq’d pork. 42000 dong. or about $2.25. and it was very good…

i didn’t ask but i’m pretty sure the lower bins are snake… i think everything else was shelled crab, different kinds, different parts

ladies of the tofu

hearts, livers, tongues and something else below the tongues… maybe kidney?

ears and innards…

squid and shrimp and soft shell crabs…

the wonderful herbs that make everything explode into some kind of harmonious cacophony of flavor…

a fish portion of my wanderings…

the garlic, ginger, shallot, lemongrass vendor – way up top towards the center are those tiny little purple shallots that i love

right outside the market… on a quieter sunday mornng

it all comes at you – but gently…

the french were here and it shows…

tonight for dinner i took myself out to hoa tuc, one of the acclaimed restaurants of saigon. for my first course i asked for a half order of one of the salads. spicy char-grilled beef with kumquat, mustard sprouts and white eggplant. the eggplant was uncooked (who knew?) which was a pleasant discovery and the overall dish was just plain excellent. 

for my second course i had bbq fillet of vietnamese snapper with spicy beet root and ginger sauce. on a personal note i liked that they didn’t mess around with trying to make it look like anything other than what it was. which was perfect. 

a glass of torrentes, a small bottle of water and the above was $15. at one of the top rated restaurants in the entire city. my 20 year old server, huon was incredibly sweet and since the night was slow had time to practice her english on me and share that she was sad today because her boyfriend had been caught sitting in a cafe with another girl. she ended it with him and now he is very sorry. on the upside he had bought her an electric fan for the room she rents. i advised her to keep it. we parted friends and i think she was sad to see me go as she walked with me awhile down the street towards my hotel.

perhaps i will visit her again when i circle back around to saigon, if only for the update.

 

Tags: asian · travel

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